How is the process of reworking Coach's Ferentz's contract coming along?
Yeah. We've had some conversations. But he's out on the road recruiting, and I've been chasing, too. And President Skorton has been hither and yon with his duties. I'm sure we'll have some ongoing coversations about it.
It doesn't seem to be a pressing issue from either end.
We've talked enough times that I expect that Kirk's going to be with us next year and in the foreseeable future. How we go forward is described in the contract, and anything we may change hasn't been done yet.
I don't know if you want to throw your cards on the table, but is there a general direction that you want to go with the reworking of the deal?
I never throw my cards on the table. (smiles) You should know better than that, Rob. Well, yeah, the way that we would like to go is we would like to do things that are mutually beneficial, especially those things that would be mutually beneficial in terms of facilitation of longevity. Those things are of particular importance to us, and I think of particular importance to Kirk. We want to be fair to him, and he's always been fair to us. As an institution, when we pay somebody a lot of money, we have to come up with a much larger portion of it than they do in Columbus, Ohio or Ann Arbor, Mich. because there's so much more outside income potential from radio and television and shoe and apparel contracts outside endorsements and those kinds of things. If we come up with a million dollars, it might be 80 percent of the total contract. At Michigan, it's a different deal.
It seemed pretty quiet after the season. Did you get any calls regarding others that might be interested in Kirk?
The NFL people, you really don't get calls from them. Once in awhile you do, but for the most part they just go on and do what they want to do. In the case of collegiate programs, it's very, very rare for a director not to call and say, "Hey, I'd like to talk to your coach." And I haven't had any of those. Kirk has always been very good about letting me know when he's been contacted by people. He did that again this year. And he was contacted by a lot of people. There were a lot of people that had preliminary interest. He told me what he was going to tell them. And I believe that's what he told them.
What did he tell them?
He told them he was going to stay at Iowa.
That's got to make you feel good. That's got to make you feel like you're doing the right things to make him happy, and that you guys have a good relationship.
We do have a good relationship. It's an excellent relationship. I think that both of us feel like we've got a good thing going here. Our football team will be outstanding again next year. We have some holes to fill, obviously. But I feel that we'll be a ver good football team, and I think that Kirk see that too. I think he's enjoying coaching his son. I think that he enjoys the people here. He knew just exactly what he was getting into when he came back to Iowa. Her knows the good things about it, and he knows the difficult things about it. Yet, he chose to make that move and come back here. I think he's glad he did. Things have gone really well largely because of the commitment that he's made and the effort that he's made. He's surrounded himself with good people. There are a lot of good things happening.
Do you get the sense that you might have some assistant coaching vacancies to fill?
I haven't heard that we have anybody leaving. I haven't heard of anybody actively looking or in discussions.
I had heard that Phil Parker was getting some interest from some other schools.
He did have interest from a couple of places. But I think that he made the decision that this was where he wanted to be.
I also had heard that Carl Jackson was considering retirement.
Well, he's getting to the age where he's keeping his options open for sure. But I also think that Carl would tell you that he's really having fun. So, I really don't see that happening, but you never know.
The success of the football program really seems to have raised the bar of expectations for your winter sports. Do you feel comfortable with how these sports are performing and the state of those programs?
They've all got winning records. I guess that's good. The expectation for our wrestling program is so high that it's virtually impossible for anybody to live up to it. If you're not undefeated in duals and win the national duals and win the NCAAs and win the Big Tens, somehow you've had an unsuccessful year. Now, last year, and in fact the last couple of years, I don't think there's any question that everybody associated with the program was unhappy with where we were at the end of the year. I don't think finishing in the Top 10 is what we aspire to.
In men's and women's basketball, we've had some opportunities this year. We're also playing pretty well right now. We put together an expectional game up at Minnesota, and then went to Illinois and played pretty well. The women's got two wins (last week). None of those three programs are in a situation right now where everybody is going to say, "Boy, they're the one with the target on their back." In men's basketball, absolutely anybody can win the Big Ten right now. If somebody gets hot for five or six games, they're going to find themselves on the top of the league. It would not be at all unforeseeable that four or five losses gets a share of the title. The women's side, it's a little tougher to play towards the top because Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue are all really good. I don't know thay we're ready to play with those three yet. But we went up and played a hell of a game against Minnesota. We were in it until the end. I like our team. More than anything, I like the people leading our teams. Sure, we want to be better. But we're not bad.
Are you comfortable with the academic checks and balances system that you have in place?
Well, we don't have any way to get them up out of bed and to get them to class. We don't spoon feed student-athletes; not in football, not in basketball, not in any sport. Fred Mims and his staff do a terrific job. We try and support the kids and arm them with the tools that they need to be successful. But you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. There are those times when despite our best effort, they still don't get the job done.
So, they're all very aware of their academic standing throughout the semester?
They know every step of the way, which makes it all the more remarkable when somtimes it doesn't work out. We've had a long history of graduating kids. During the last reporting period, basketball at a 100 percent graduation rate. But it's frustrating at times to have people that you've invested in as people and as recruits not get it done. We've invested in them, but we also don't spend our time helping kids major in eligibilty. We want them moving forward and getting a degree and all of those things. I think our academic environment here is really second to none. We graduate three out of every four student athletes that come in the front door. Our football graduation rates are among the best in the country. If you look at the 56 teams that were in bowls, we've been in the Top five the last three years. There are easier places to go to school. We expect accountability. We expect you to go through and get an education. When it comes right down to it, our core business is about helping kids get an education and have a great athletics experience at the same time. It's been that way for a long time around here. I don't see that changing.